Wow. This sure degenerated. I skipped from page 1 to page 11 and, Jesus, did this ever go downhill. These are real and significant issues. Why not discuss them maturely, without this silly pissing match b.s.?

Anyway, appropos of the original topic, here is a discussion between a couple of noted photography critics/curators about some of these issues, particularly the issue of what "matters" in a photograph. At one point in the discussion, Jorg Colberg says this:


That’s a very interesting point you’re making about photographers. I’ve long been baffled by so many photographers seemingly having no interest whatsoever to look into their own art form more deeply. How can this be? How can you not look at a lot of photographs, just like writers, let’s say, typically read a lot (to then spend most of their time being utterly devastated about the fact that so many other writers are so much better)? How is this possible? The often complete lack of knowledge of obvious references pains me! You’ve just got to know who and what came before you so you, too, can stand on the shoulders of giants!

I’ve often thought that this disconnect from the past is tied to the lack of imagination I see in so much photography: If you’re not curious enough about the world, you can still make plenty of photographs. Of course, you won’t bother to look at what came before you, and of course those photographs will then at best be one liners (that someone else might have done a whole lot better).

It’s a bit like trying to learn a language by learning parts of the grammar and some words, but never looking at how that all can be used before having a go at it. Sadly, our culture, at least out photographic culture, truly buys into that, in all kinds of ways. For example, there is that cult of the young photographer. I don’t mean to say that young photographers cannot produce wonderful photography. But just like in any art form, being able to say something is contingent on having lived a life, experienced things. None of that stuff comes easy!

Add to that the obsession that everything has been new, and you’re truly in trouble. I have had students who told me they didn’t want to photograph something any longer, because someone else had already done it. How can that be? Why are there so many people writing about love – now that has been done before as well, hasn’t it? The moment you’re in photoland, the absurd idea that something is done when someone else has done it before is widely accepted.


Back to my view: this discussion seems to have degenerated into an argument over technique, as things so often do on these forums. I don't give a damn about your technique; show me something new in your photographs, something you are exploring, something that matters like hell to you and you can show it any way you damn well please, including paint on photo!

What often pains me is to see so much Ansel Adams-y pretty b&w landscape work here as if repeatedly making the same photograph can deliver interest to the viewer. There is a difference between pretty and beautiful, between truth and prettiness. That difference is found in art. Art does not care what your method is if it coalesces with your message and your matter.